Related Product(s): Facial Make-ups
History of Beijing Opera Facial Make-up
Beijing Opera (also known as Peking Opera) is one of most famous drama in China. It has a history of over 150 years, and is more firmly rooted in the masses. Beijing Opera has developed faster than other older forms of Chinese drama, now it becomes the major dramatic form in China. Its fascinating painted faces have a special place among the numerous kinds of facial make-up in Chinese drama. Audiences consider them "living art" - as alive as the opera actors themselves.
The development of the art of painting faces is closely related to that of Chinese dramatic art, although the earliest painted faces, or their precursors, appeared long before Chinese drama took shape. Clowns with a big white spot painted on their faces were seen in Song dynasty operettas and Yuan dynasty poetic dramas of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Facial make-up like that of Beijing Opera Jing roles (warriors or robust male characters) had, however, been used in songs and dances nearly a thousand years earlier. As far back as the Northern and Southern Dynasties and the Sui-Tang (420-907) a song and dance featured warriors wearing masks, a precursor of the painted face. This is told in the Old History of the Tang Dynasty: Chapter on Music: "Prince Lanling of the Northern Qi was a great warrior but had a pretty, womanish face. To frighten his enemies, he would wear a fearsome mask when he went to war. Once, in a battle with the state of Zhou outside Jinyong City, he proved himself the strongest and bravest of all. His people were so proud of him that they composed a song and dance called "Prince Lanling at the Front" in which the actors wore masks and their movements simulated the way the prince vanquished his enemies."
Thus the custom of actors wearing masks began. Though not in general use nowadays, masks are still worn in some traditional operas, such as the local dramas performed by the Bouyei people of Xingyi, Guizhou Province. Such masks may be regarded as living fossils in the history of opera facial make-up. As Chinese dramatic art developed, the drawbacks of wearing masks became increasingly evident, for masks prevented the actors from showing their facial expressions. A vividly painted face, however, enables audiences to see expressions clearly even from a distance, a great advantage in the days when dramatic performances were usually staged in the open air before large crowds. So actors began to apply powder, ink, paint, and soot to their faces, creating the art of facial make-up.
In the begining only three sharply contrasting colors - red, white, and black - were generally used in facial make-up. Eyes, ears nose, mouth, and facial contours were delineated clearly, and a character's most distinctive features, such as thick brows, large eyes, upturned nose, or wide mouth, were usually exaggerated. The earliest painted faces were simple and crude, but with time the designs became more elaborate and ornamental. By the late eighteeth and early nineteenth centuries, when Beijing Opera had acquired its unique artistic style and methods of performance, the art of Peking Opera facial make-up was developing fast, thanks to the improvements and innovations made by successive generations of performers and artists and to the assimilation of the best make-up used in various local opera. Colors and designs have since become richer and more diversified; distinctions between different roles and characters have become sharper, and a host of new faces has been created for both historical and legendary figures.
Related Product(s): Facial Make-ups